Twelve Angry Men (1957)


 "12 Angry Men, by Sidney Lumet, may be the most radical courtroom drama in cinema history. A behind-closed-doors look at the American legal system that is as riveting as it is spare, this iconic adaptation of Reginald Rose’s teleplay stars Henry Fonda as the dissenting member on a jury of white men ready to pass judgment on a Puerto Rican teenager charged with murdering his father. The result is a saga of epic proportions that plays out over a tense afternoon in one sweltering room. Lumet’s electrifying snapshot of 1950s America on the verge of change is one of the great feature film debuts"

This was  Sidney Lumet's first feature film - a low-budget ($350,000) film shot in only 19 days from a screenplay by Reginald Rose, who based his script on his own teleplay of the same name. 


The defense and the prosecution have rested and the jury is filing into the jury room to decide if a young Spanish-American is guilty or innocent of murdering his father. 

The film shows us nothing of the trial itself except for the judge's perfunctory, almost bored, charge to the jury. His tone of voice indicates the verdict is a foregone conclusion. We hear neither prosecutor nor defense attorney, and learn of the evidence only second-hand, as the jurors debate it. 
 The story then gets focused on the deliberations of 12 jurors serving on a murder case. Eleven jurors vote for a quick conviction, but one (played by Henry Fonda)  tries to convince the others that the accused may be innocent, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
One against eleven, but that is only beginning.



Twelve Angry Men was a financial disaster when it first opened , but it did receive three Academy Award nominations (with no wins): Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. All three categories lost to David Lean's Oscar-sweeping, extravagant epic film The Bridge on the River Kwai. Henry Fonda's central role as a juror with resolute caution was un-nominated as Best Actor.


The principle of reasonable doubt, the belief that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, is one of the most enlightened elements of our Constitution, although many Americans have had difficulty in accepting it. "It's an open and shut case," snaps Juror No. 3 (Lee J. Cobb) as the jury first gathers in their claustrophobic little room. When the first ballot is taken, 10 of his fellow jurors agree, and there is only one holdout--Juror No. 8 (Henry Fonda).

 In a length of only 95 minutes (it sometimes feels as if the movie is shot in real time), the jurors are all defined in terms of their personalities, backgrounds, occupations, prejudices and emotional tilts. Evidence is debated so completely that we feel we know as much as the jury does, especially about the old man who says he heard the murder and saw the defendant fleeing, and the lady across the street who says she saw it happen through the windows of a moving L train.


Full Review by Roger Ebert

 12 ANGRY MEN (1957)



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by   (Introduction)
"Twelve Angry Men," an iconic courtroom drama by Reginald Rose, did not begin on the stage as is often the case. Instead, the popular play was adapted from the author's 1954 live teleplay that debuted on CBS and was soon made into a movie.